Thursday, September 30, 2010

Amaretto and Espresso

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A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times had an article about how Chef Chole and her vegan cupcakes beat out the competition on Cupcake Wars.  I must admit, I love my Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World book - the recipes are delicious and no one eats them and says "are these vegan?"  Personally, I think that vegan cupcakes tend to be a lot more moist and flavorful.  

At any rate, I decided to give one of Chef Chloe's recipes a whirl.  She posted her winning recipe, raspberry tiramisu cupcakes, on her blog.  I was pretty excited about it, until the cake part came out dense like rocks.  I'm really not too sure what happened.  I threw them out and made the cake from Martha Stewart's tiramisu cupcakes (online here).  That cake comes out nice and spongy, perfect for drizzling the amaretto-espresso soaking syrup.  

The recipe is a lot of work, but I would definitely recommend checking it out here.  I topped them with some homemade chocolate hearts.  I don't drink coffee, so I didn't think that the cupcakes tasted great, but they were a huge hit with everyone else that ate them :)

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

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I have been dying to use my kitchen torch since making the Baked Alaska cupcakes over the summer with Allie.     I decided to give it a go with Martha Stewart's lemon meringue cupcake recipe.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to make lemon curd from scratch, so I used some from the grocery store.

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Before browning with the torch

I made them bite sized (bake for about 13-16 minutes in a mini-cupcake pan) for a fondue party that I attended.  Instead of coring out a portion of the cupcake and filling it with the lemon curd, I just spread it over the top with an offset spatula and put the meringue on top.  If you don't own a kitchen torch, you can place the cupcakes on the top rack with the oven on broil.  It will only take seconds for the meringue to brown so be sure to watch them carefully.

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The duck cupcake liners are from Wilton and you can purchase them from their website here.

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The lemon curd really stole the show, and that was the only part of the cupcake that I didn't make!  Oh well, at least they were still enjoyed :)

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Monday, September 13, 2010

The Eyes Have It

green eyes cupcakes\

I like making medicine-themed cupcakes (remember my surgery ones?).  I was very eager to make eyeball cupcakes for Monica, who wanted to give them as a thank you to people who helped her with her residency application in ophthalmology.  I have made silly eye cupcakes before for Halloween in the past, but I wanted to these be a little more true to life.

eye lolipops


I found the above eye lollipops at a local dollar store (you have to love that it's early September and the Halloween goods are already out!).  I unfortunately was unable to remove the stick without completely ruining the lollipop.  I therefore cut off the bottom of the stick in order to just have eyeballs.  Of course, people that received the cupcake were forewarned that the eye was a hard candy and that there was a not-so-tasty plastic stick inside.  I have also seen gummy eyeball candy that would work well.

bowl of eyes

I used fondant for the eyelids. I used a combination of Wilton creamy peach and Wilton brown gel paste coloring to achieve a color that resembles the dummies in our simulation lab.  If you don't want to mess with the food coloring, you can always try Wilton's fondant natural colors pack.  i used a 3" round cookie cutter to cut out a circle.  I cut the circle in half and rolled it out more with a rolling pin to a more oval shape so that it stretched partly over the eye candy.

putting on eye lashes


For the eyelashes, the lovely Sara painstakingly placed black sprinkles in the fondant around the eye.  It was not easy, which is why the eyelashes are a little spaced out. 

eye cupcakes!


I have to be honest. I love how they turned out! Yes, a little gross I suppose, but they definitely look like eyes.  It's nice to have an excuse to be creative and get away from hearts and flowers. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

How to bake wedding cupcakes at home

cupcake tower!
The finished product!

As my last entry revealed, I somehow survived making 300 cupcakes for my friends' wedding.  This post is by no means meant to be the be-all-end-all of how to make cupcakes yourself for a wedding, but it will highlight what I did and my tips for what I found helpful.

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These are the test cupcakes that I made for the bride and groom to taste


1. Cupcake Consultation

I invited Tim and Jenna over in order to taste cupcakes, look through my (numerous) cupcakes and cake book, look at what kinds of cupake stands I own (too many?), and discuss what they were looking for.  I already knew that Tim wanted white cake with vanilla buttercream, so I made those cupcakes for them to see if they liked how it tasted and then decorated each of them a little differently so that they could get a feel for what I could do for them.  This is a good time to have the couple bring in their invitation if they have it, or other details about the wedding that would be useful for cupcake inspiration, like color theme and flower arrangements.  In the end, Tim and Jenna said that I could do whatever I wanted.  I decided to match the invitation by having hearts (which were in the invite) in matching colors.  You may need another session or two to have the couple decide what flavor(s) they want, or at least to have them taste what you make to ensure that they like it.

Some things to think about:
- cupcake tower?
- cutting cake?
- what kind of wrappers?
- how many different flavors?
- how many people? will people want more than one cupcake?
- what time do the cupcakes need to be there?
- will be there a place to refrigerate cupcakes?
- will I be able to make 300 of these?

2. Planning

- Baking time: I had about 5 weeks for the cupcakes.  I briefly thought about the idea of baking them in advance and then freezing them, but I can't imagine that it would taste as good as them being fresh, and luckily I knew that I would have enough time to bake all of the cupcakes within 24 hours of the event.  I also have no idea how to properly freeze cupcakes to avoid freezer burn and I have a very small freezer.  I did see several blogs that suggested doing this, however.  I made a test batch of the cupcakes for the cupcake consultation, so I knew how long it would take to bake each dozen.  I calculated how many hours it would take to bake 300, and then added extra time.  Tip: It will ALWAYS take you longer than you think! Plus no one can bake for 5 hours in a row without some sort of break.  Tip: Buy extra ingredients!  You also don't want to bake exactly 300 cupcakes.  I dropped 4 on the floor, and the only thing preventing me from having a heart attack was the fact that I made 12 extra cupcakes.

cupcakes in closed boxes
Cuppies in their boxes waiting to go to the wedding

- Transportation: The wedding took place about a 10 minute drive from my house, but I still needed a good way to get all of the cupcakes there.  I went to the Baker's Nook and asked them what they normally do when they transport large amount of cupcakes.  I ended up purchasing the boxes that they used, available online here.  If you don't want to buy them online, try going to a local bakery and buying some of their boxes.  I know that other people use shallow office paper boxes, but I like that proper cupcake boxes have inserts that separate each cupcake so that they won't fall over.

cupcakes in tupperware
It seemed like there were cupcakes EVERYWHERE in my house!

- Storage: I decided to make my cupcakes starting the afternoon before the wedding with the goal of having most of them finished by the next day so that I just had to make icing and frost all of the cupcakes and only make a couple dozen the day off the event.  I purchased some nice plastic food storage containers from the dollar store so that the cupcakes wouldn't dry out overnight.  Three-hundred cupcakes take up a lot of space! Make sure that you have a place to put them :)

peach and pink fondant hearts
Some of the fondant hearts that I made and allowed to dry overnight

- Toppers: As I mentioned, I made fondant hearts to top the cupcakes.  I made most of them two weeks in advance so that they could dry overnight and not be so pliable and so that I didn't have to do everything all together.  Tip: If possible, make your fondant/gum paste/chocolate toppers in advance.  You can allow them to dry and be hard, which will make them easier to place on the cupcake, or keep them in airtight containers.  Tip: make extra! You never know when something will break or you might have some last minute inspiration.

- Help: I am a pretty stubborn baker and like to do everything myself, but it's ok to have people help you. My roommate and I made a little assembly line where I would put the swirl of frosting on the cupcake and she placed the hearts and put them in the boxes. It saves time :) Also, I needed help moving the cupcakes from my hosue to the location of the wedding. As your friends in advance to make sure that they are available to lend a hand.



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White cake with vanilla buttercream
 
- Frosting: Although many frostings can be made in advance, I would vote for not making or frosting the cupcakes until the day of the event if that's possible.  It will look better and taste better.  Besides, putting swirls on 300 cupcakes doesn't take as long as one might think!  Again, have extra ingredients just in case.  And don't forget the icing bags.



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All of the different colors of hearts

3. Baking and Decorating

Again, I did the cupcakes in the 24 hours before the wedding.  I'll admit, it was stressful.  However, I was confident that cupcakes were fresh, and if they had been for me I wouldn't have wanted frozen and defrosted cupcakes.  It was SO helpful to have the fondant hearts made in advance. 

Things that made the baking easier:
Things that I wish I had:
  • Two ovens (would have reduced the baking time in half!)
  • Kitchen-Aid paddle with scraper ability (then I wouldn't have to stop and scrape the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula).
  • Extra standing mixer bowl
  • Commercial kitchen.  I know that won't be happening anytime soon but it really would have made things easier  :)

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Completed wedding cupcake! The heart on the right has pearl dust


4. Other recommendations

If you are attending the wedding, be sure that you finish with enough time to rest before the ceremony and reception!  I didn't have time for anything except to shower and get dressed, and I was unbelievably exhausted before the wedding even started!  Try to give yourself some time :)

Be sure to do a test run of the recipe to get an idea of how many the recipe will make, how long it takes to bake, etc.

Did I already mention have extra materials and give yourself extra time?

Enjoy the process! It was unbelievably satisfying and rewarding to play a role in such an important day.

NB:  I used the medium sized heart in the Wilton Fondant heart cutout pack for most of the hearts.  I also used Wilton fondant and gel colors in rose, creamy peach, and teal.  I applied the pearl dust with a clean brush.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wedding Cupcakes, Round One - success!

bride and groom with cupcake

I did it.  I successfully made 300 cupcakes for a wedding.

I only had one sleepless night of worrying.  No cupcake all-nighter was necessary, however.


You can check out my post on how to bake wedding cupcakes at home and these pictures from the wedding :)


me and cupcakes

That's me next to the cupcakes.  The bride made the cupcake tower (pretty amazing, huh?).


cupcakes on dog cake dish

Not all of the cupcakes fit on the stand, so some were on these cake dishes with dogs on them.  Half of the hearts had luster dust on them to make them shiny.  The invitation had pink and orange hearts with teal writing, which is where the idea for the hearts and the colors came from.

my cupcake sign!!

I had my very own cupcake sign to help people find the cupcakes!!  I sort of want to put it outside of my house.

set up by color

I took dozens of pictures of my cupcakes.  I bet that people who didn't know that I made them thought that it was weird.

looking longingly at cupcake

You have to love Nick's face in the background.



reaching for a cupcake

Despite all of my worries that the cupcakes wouldn't taste good, that the fondant hearts would melt, and that my oven would explode, the cupcakes were a huge hit.  I was so happy to be such an important part of my friends' special day :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Getting ready for 300 cupcakes!



I had a heck of a time pushing around my shopping cart the other evening.  Ingredients for 300 cupcakes sure are heavy!  I'm really looking forward to making the cupcakes for Jenna and Tim's wedding tomorrow.  I admit, I am a little stressed about getting it all done and whether or not people will like them.  However, it feels good to be part of such a special event!  I'll update this weekend with the pictures of the process and final product.  Until then, stay out of my way in my kitchen ;-)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Orange-Flower Water and Cardamom

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I must admit, I love making cupcakes with unusual ingredients.  They can be a pain in the neck to find, but the end result is usually worth the effort.  I found this recipe on Epicurious months ago, but was unable to track down orange-flower water.  I eventually stumbled upon it at Plum Market.  For those of you not in Michigan, it's available online here.  I have had good luck with past recipes that I have made with cardamom (like the rosewater pistachio cuppies and the Bollywood cupcakes) so I decided to give the cardamom and orange-flower water combo a whirl!


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Orange-Flower Water and Cardamom Cupcakes - Adapted from Bon Appetit - Makes 2 dozen

  • 2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter 2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • zest from one medium orange
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp orange-flower water
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners

  2. In a large bowl, cream together on low-medium speed until butter and sugar are well combined.

  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition on medium speed.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary

  4. In a separate medium bowl, add the flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk together.

  5. In a small bowl, add the orange zest vanilla, orange-flower water, and buttermilk.

  6. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the liquid ingredients to the butter-sugar-egg mixture.  Continue to beat until everything is combined.

  7. Fill the paper liners 2/3 full with batter.  Bake for 24-26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the top of the cupcake comes out clean.

  8. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a cooling rack until they are completely cool.

These cupcakes were a hit with my team last month, and one of my roommates kept looking around the kitchen for more after I took them to the hospital.  The orange-flower water has a strong scent in the bottle, but wasn't overwhelming in the cupcake. 


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I opted to top these cupcakes with a vanilla bean frosting, using my beloved vanilla bean paste in lieu of an actual vanilla bean.  Also, try to say vanilla bean buttercream three times fast.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream - Makes about 3 cups

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds (~4 cups) confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1-2 T milk
  1. Cream butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and creamy
  2. Add the confectioner's sugar 1/2 cup at a time to the butter.  Mix on medium-high speed until well mixed before adding the next 1/2 cup.  The mixture will look sort of dry after all of the sugar has been added.
  3. Add the vanilla bean paste and 1 T of milk.  Mix well.  You may need to add more milk in order to get the consistency that you desire.

I think that the vanilla bean frosting added some extra class to an already classy cupcake (you have to love those little black specks!).  It really complimented the orange flavor quite well.  These cupcakes were amaaaaaazing.  Several members of my team last month said that they were the best cupcakes that I made.  I will definitely make these cupcakes again in the future.  For now, I need to find other cake recipes with orange-flower water!

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